Christopher Eubanks rode his towering serve to a come-from-behind victory over fellow American Brandon Nakashima to charge into the Atlanta Open quarter-finals Wednesday night.
With Nakashima adopting an aggressive service stance, the 21-year-old earned seven break points throughout the match - including three at 0/40 in the final game - but fifth-seeded Eubanks held firm each and every time en route to a 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-5 win.
"I like to think of myself as a server and servers make their name serving out sets, serving out matches and consolidating breaks," Eubanks said. "I survived 15/40 earlier in the set and then in that final game Brandon came up with some good returns and the new balls got back on me pretty quickly.
"I told myself it was the law of averages. I've held every single game. I went back to what I know, trust in myself, hit my spots and I came up with some big serves.," said Eubanks, who has won 11 of his past 12 matches, stretching back to his title run at the ATP 250 in Mallorca on grass.
Eubanks fired 21 aces but had not earned a break point on Nakashima’s serve until the ninth game of the second set when he caught fire, breaking the 21-year-old to love, helped by one explosive 99 mph forehand winner. He closed out the set in the next game and in the decider he fended off two break points in his opening service game before breaking to 15 in the 10th game.
Eubanks, who hit 51 winners, is through to his second quarter-final in Atlanta and will next play World No. 82 Australian Aleksandar Vukic, who upset fourth seed Yoshihito Nishioka 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(3) in brutally hot conditions during the day session.
Two-time tournament champion Alex de Minaur improved to 10-1 at Atlantic Station after rallying from an early break down in the second set to defeat fellow Aussie Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-3, 6-4 in a first-time meeting between the Australians.
Kokkinakis paid the price for putting just 55 per cent of first serves into play, a problem compounded by De Minaur dominating on second serve returns, winning 56 per cent of those points.
De Minaur went down an early break in the second set before upping his aggression. “I let him dictate too much so I tried to step in and play on my terms, which is what got me the first set,” De Minaur said of his revival. “I’m happy to live and fight another day.
“Thanasi is a very good friend. We know each other well and just yesterday we were hanging out all day. It’s always tricky to play a mate.”
The 24-year-old, who at No. 17 in the Pepperstone ATP Rankings is just two places below his career-hgh mark, advanced to the quarter-finals, where he will meet Frenchman Ugo Humbert, who took out South Africa's Lloyd Harris 7-6(6), 6-4.